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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Tonight we get the final preliminary round fight, the coaches challenge, and the coaches narrow the nine remaining competitors to eight and set the quarterfinal matchups. Relatively action-packed night for The Ultimate Fighter! On to the recap.
-McGregor psyched his guys up backstage after their most recent victory, and then it was quickly onto the first training session. McGregor talked up Abner Lloveras' experience as a significant edge.
-With Team Faber, Jason Gonzales is trying to prepare himself with the knowledge that Lloveras has that experience edge. Faber believed Gonzales to be 90% striker, and thought the strategy for Lloveras would be to out-work Gonzales on the ground. He said they're doing their best in the time they have available to have him prepared.
They're brought out to some wide open desert space, where they await Dana White's entrance along with ring girl Arianny Celeste in a helicopter. In this season's coaches challenge, Faber and McGregor will be going up in the helicopter with five watermelons and attempting to hit a target on the ground with their shots. Most points wins $10K cash for themselves, and $1,500 for their team.
McGregor and Faber exchanged some verbal jabs up in the copters, and they began tossing watermelons from there. Both hit the 25 point middle ring in the opening round (McGregor didn't hit the center as he said he would on ever shot). They traded ten-spots in the second round, with both taunting each other not to miss. Faber hit the inner-ring for 50 in round three, with McGregor missing again and hitting the outer-ring 10 point spot. Faber then missed entirely in round four, much to McGregor's delight. 25 for McGregor in round four. Faber makes up for the 0 in round four, and hits the bullseye, giving him the automatic win. McGregor smirked and shook his head as Faber yelled out "Game over, baby" and gloated.
McGregor wasn't happy with the loss, saying "f*** the challenge" and saying he doesn't handle losing well. Faber called it some foreshadowing.
-After some fairly typical background on the fighters and backstage thoughts, it's time for our fight of the week.
FIGHT: ABNER LLOVERAS VS. JEREMY GONZALEZ
ROUND ONE: Gonzalez came out swinging, and Lloveras landed a few strikes in return. He backed away from a rush and circled out. They both barely missed kicks out of range. Lloveras blocked a spinning kick high. Gonzalez landed a straight strike in and stuffed a takedown attempt. He continued to hold it off on the cage, then scored a solid combination and drove Lloveras back. He hurt him with a knee to the body and Lloveras was cut up on his face from some of those strikes. He jumped in with another knee to the body and kept pressuring him back. He stuffed another takedown, then landed a hard kick to the body. Gonzales landed another combination again, then landed a hard knee and stuffed another takedown. Lloveras clinched and drove him to the cage, finally scoring a takedown. He got right into mount off that trip. He postured up and landed a hard strike. Gonzalez covered up, then tried to escape. Lloveras got to side control and then back to mount. Clearly Faber wasn't wrong about Gonzalez's ground game. Lloveras looked to attack an arm, and he landed some hard strikes trying to set something up. He dropped down a few real hard elbows. He ended the round in mount with several more punches and elbows. Strong finish. Clear striker v. grappler battle here, with Gonzalez scoring well in the first half and Lloveras dominating on the ground.
ROUND TWO: Gonzalez looked to press forward early on. McGregor wanted Lloveras to pressure, thinking Gonzalez couldn't take it. Lloveras got in a body kick. Gonzales looked for a high kick. He missed a spinning kick and Lloveras shot in. He got Gonzalez to the ground. Gonzalez gave up his back but worked to his feet. He tried to turn into Lloveras, but got tripped down once again. Back to the mount for Lloveras. Just no semblance of ground ability for Gonzalez. He tried to kick off the cage, but got kept down. Lloveras easily passed his guard and got back to mount. Gonzales again tried to kick off the cage to no avail. Faber futilely tried to get Gonzalez to get up. He finally exploded off the cage to get to his feet, but Lloveras was right back on him in the clinch. Gonzalez tried for an idiotic flying triangle that was just terrible in its execution, and Lloveras took control in half guard. Gonzalez kicked him off to stand again, but Lloveras again gave him no space and took him back down. He was much more content to hold position control this round, and he passed again to mount without doing much else. He postured up late and tossed out some pitter-patter strikes. Gonzalez looked solid on the feet through two minutes or so, but he had absolutely nothing on the ground. Lloveras played blanket in the second round, but it was effective enough to take this decision.
WINNER: Lloveras via unanimous decision
-Lloveras said it was a much harder fight than he expected, and he was exhausted afterward. It showed in that second round, which is why he didn't do much once he got it to the ground in that final round. Gonzalez was disheartened at how the fight went.
-Time now for the coaches to debate which fighter will be kept out of the quarterfinals. For those who may have forgotten, Dana White's plan in bringing back a couple fighters was to encourage impressive performances with nine victorious opening round fighters vying for just eight spots after this round of fights.
-The coaches get to give their thoughts here, while White will make the decision on the matchups. McGregor believes Chris Gruetzemacher has to be the front runner for getting cut out of the next round after a fairly dull win, while Martin Svensson could potentially be another option despite his second round submission. Dana gave his own thought process to Faber and McGregor, and wanted to make it clear why he thought Gruetzemacher should be the one out, and why he couldn't cut a guy who finished his fight over someone who failed to do much with his positions. Faber wasn't happy with it, and thought Gruetzemacher was a better fighter than Svensson.
-They got into another argument, this time talking over each other about their earnings. Faber ripped McGregor's spending habits, while McGregor said he made more in his last fight than Faber's made in his entire career. White finally tried to get things back to making fights, but it led to them both trying to get White to make the fight between them. McGregor said he almost didn't do the show because people wouldn't be interested in a season where the two aren't fighting one another at the end, and that he'd have to be around Faber as he has been all season without getting to punch him in the face at the end. He's not all wrong there.
-Time for the quarterfinal fight announcements. Gruetzemacher is officially named the odd man out. White gave him the caveat that if any injuries happen to either team, he'll be back in. Gruetzemacher didn't take the decision well, breaking in an interview about wanting the same opportunity as everyone else there.
Here are the quarterfinal matchups:
-Artem Lobov vs. Martin Svensson
-Saul Rogers vs. Ryan Hall
-Marcin Wrzosek vs. David Teymur-Julian Erosa vs. Abner Lloveras
-Team U.S. fighters Hall and Erosa are on opposite ends of the bracket, so despite the wins so far for Team Europe, it's still possible the finals bout is an all Team U.S. final.
-That's all for this week! We'll be back next week for the start of the quarterfinal round. Just a couple more episodes left before the Dec. 11 finale event.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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